Washington D.C. February 25, 2009 – The Embassy of Liberia has officially launched the Liberian Diaspora Advisory Board to promote greater partnership between citizens and friends of Liberia living in the United States and the Liberian Government.
Speaking at the official launching ceremony of the Board held recently in Washington DC, the Liberian Ambassador to the United States, Nathaniel Milton Barnes, said the decision to establish the Board reflects the need to maximize the participation of all Liberians in Liberia’s reconstruction. He noted that in order to address the many problems facing Liberia, members of the Board have been tasked to explore all available avenues to support “Lift Liberia”—the official Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) of the Liberian Government.
Members of the Board are: Mohammedu F. Jones, Chairman; Dr. Sakui Malakpa, Vice Chairman; Kwame Clement; John F. Lloyd; Christiana Tah; Zubah Kpanaku; Seward B. Cooper; Dr. James Elliott; Valerie Dickson-Horton; Charles Ebu King; Mohamed Konneh; Peter Tichansky; Stephanie Vickers; Robtel Pailey, Assistant to the President of Liberia; and the Liberian Embassy Director of Diaspora Affairs (to be appointed), who will serve as Secretary to the Advisory Board.
At the conclusion of its first working session held on Saturday, February 21, 2009, in Washington, DC, the Board accepted its mandate and outlined its primary objectives with a mission “To harness resources of the Liberian Diaspora to support ‘Lift Liberia.” In this effort, members of the Board will engage the Liberian Diaspora on the following four central pillars of the PRS: (1) Economic Revitalization, (2) National Security Issues, (3) Governance and Rule of Law, and (4) Infrastructure and Basic Needs. These pillars, as outlined in the PRS, articulate the Liberian Government’s vision and strategies for moving toward rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth and development during the period 2008-2011.
At the launching ceremony held at his official residence in Washington DC, Ambassador Barnes described the U.S. based Liberian Diaspora as a vital extension of Liberia, consisting of three major categories: (1) Crisis Diaspora: Liberians and their offspring who fled the nation during various periods of violent conflict; (2) The special Diaspora: Individuals characterized as non-Liberians who have a special affinity for, and interest in, the welfare of Liberia often because of personal relations with the country or its citizens; and (3) the Historical Diaspora: Liberians - - and their offsprings - - who, for various reasons, including the pursuit of education and professional development, migrated to and remained in the United States long before the outbreak of civil strife and war in Liberia.
Ambassador Barnes noted that the Board members reflect all three categories of the Liberian Diaspora in the United States, which, he said, is necessary to ensure maximum Diaspora support for the attainment of the PRS goals. The Ambassador said while the Diaspora Board consists of members of the Liberian Diaspora in the United States, it will reach out to and garner the support of Liberian Diaspora communities across the world as it works to support the Government’s poverty reduction strategy. In this connection, the Board will liaise and work in concert with all Liberians and the relevant ministries and agencies of the Liberian Government to design and implement specific initiatives and programs in support of the PRS. The specific categories and their broad terms of reference are:
· Economic Revitalization
o The Board will work to actively promote direct Liberian Diaspora investment in Liberia while also collaborating with international organizations, governmental and non-governmental agencies to foster economic development in Liberia. With the goal of expanding economic opportunities for all Liberians, the Board will also work to promote small business entrepreneurship, increase micro-lending and develop a database of Liberian Diaspora resources.
· National Security
o The Board will use issues of national and sub-regional security as the subject of collaborative efforts among institutions of higher learning and international agencies. It will also establish a direct link between the Diaspora and the government of Liberia in order to foster a healthy and collaborative working relationship on national security issues. Additionally, the Board will look to, among other things, sensitize Liberians regarding civic responsibilities by enhancing their awareness of their rights and duties as citizens of the country.
· Governance and Rule of Law
o The Board will work to increase public awareness of, and participation in, policy formulation and implementation. The aim is to help foster effective and efficient public institutions nationwide, while strengthening and enhancing the integrity of legal and judicial entities, and promoting human rights. In this connection, the Board will mobilize Diaspora-based legal professionals to work with their counterparts in Liberia to help provide continuing education and training for members of the legal profession.
· Infrastructure and Basic Needs
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Board will help to implement the national education goals set forth in PRS. It will also make recommendations on capacity building, teacher education and training. The Board will elicit assistance from the Diaspora to fund scholarships, increase adult literacy, help provide rural communities with grant writing skills, and raise funds to rebuild and repair schools.
The Board will identify health professionals in the Diaspora to help augment the number of qualified medical doctors, mental and social health professionals, and nurses in Liberia. The Committee will work to reintroduce a program under which Liberian medical doctors will serve rural communities for a period of two years in exchange for receiving free medical education at the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine in Liberia. The Board will seek financial assistance from the Diaspora to renovate clinics and provide medical equipment and training in a more focused and concerted manner.
o Roads & Bridges
The Board will work with the Diaspora to help provide professionals to inspect roads and bridges in Liberia to ensure compliance with minimum safety and quality standards. It will also recruit engineers to volunteer in Liberia and identify contact persons/organizations who can contribute to the realization of the infrastructural and development goals of “Lift Liberia.”
Contact: Clarence Moniba (Operating Officer)
Email Address: Clarence.Moniba@liberianembassyus.org
Office Address: 5201 16th Street, NW, Washington DC, 20011